WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Pope John Paul II has made a veiled call for a new direction at a popular but controversial Catholic radio station that has run afoul of the Polish church.

During a prayer meeting Monday in the northern city of Torun, where Radio Maryja was founded more than seven years ago, the pope told a crowd of 300,000 he was happy to be with listeners of the station ``that reaches many Poles in the country and around the world.''

Some people held banners of Radio Maryja, which claims that 5 million people _ or one in eight Poles _ tune in daily.

John Paul and the Polish church praised the station when it began broadcasting in 1991, but the station's director has since been reprimanded by both church leaders and secular Poles who accuse the radio of encouraging nationalism and anti-Semitism.

``Let Holy Mary, the star of new evangelization, guide your radio to meetings with new people and with new times,'' the pontiff said Monday in what appeared to be a call for the station to adopt a more progressive stance.

Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, the station director, was reprimanded by church leaders in 1997 for contempt of judicial authorities when he repeatedly ignored a court summons in a slander investigation.

Polish legislators demanded the investigation after Rydzyk said politicians seeking to liberalize Poland's abortion law should have their heads shaved, a World War II method of branding Polish women suspected of prostituting themselves to the Nazi occupiers.